Hoboken, NJ Dock Fire, Jul 1900
IMMENSE FIRE AT HOBOKEN DOCKS
Three Big Steamships Wholly Destroyed With Great Loss of Life.
New York, July 2. --- Almost $10,000,000 worth of property was destroyed, many lives lost, many person were injured and at least 1,500 lives imperiled by a fire that started among cotton bales under Pier No. 3, of the North German Lloyd Steamship Company, in Hoboken, N. J., at 4 o'clock, Saturday afternoon.
In less than fifteen minutes the flames covered an area of a quarter of a mile long, extending outward from the actual short line to the bulk-heads, from six hundred to one thousand feet away, and had caught four great ocean liners and a dozen or more smaller harbor craft in its grasp.
The losses sustained in the fire are to-night conservatively placed at nearly $10,000,000. The loss of life merely guess work at even this late hour, will reach probably as high as 200, and there are over 300 men in the hospitals in this city, Hoboken and Jersey City, badly burned.
Up to 11 o'clock to-night eighteen bodies have been recovered. Eleven of these were placed in a row at the morgue in this city and were numbered, this being the only means the authorities have of maintaining any sort of identity over the corpses, as they are so badly charred and dismembered that identification will be made only by trinkets or pieces of clothing that were found about the bodies. The only was the steamship officials have of approximating the loss of life is by comparing the list of those reported safe with the list of the employes[sic] on the steamships.
A spectacular but horrible sight was presented to-day. Where two days ago piers reached hundreds of feet out into the river and rose like great hills alive with outgoing and incoming commerce, lay a great waste of burning and smouldering beams, with here and there a remnant of a high brick wall. The three immense piers of the North German Lloyd line were burned to the water's ripple, the Thingvalla pier lay smouldering and a part of the Hamburg-American pier, which had just been added to their great piers were ruins. Four large store houses of the Palmer-Campbell company are wrecked, and they, with the piers, went to make up the appalling mass of debris, smoking, sizzling and steaming. It covers over four city blocks, and reaches out into the river for over a thousand feet. Streams of water are being pumped upon the ruins and workmen are poking about for bodies.
This was the scene of the greatest attraction to-day and thousands upon thousands of people went there. The streets were jammed.
Far off, up the North river at Weehawken, a great cloud of smoke rose and tumbled, at one moment on the water and the next rising just enough to show the skeletons of two of the great ocean liners, the Bremen and the Maine, that rose like giant spires out of the smooth fact of the water. They had been beached there. Around them swarmed a fleet of small boats carrying sightseers.
Far down the river, off Ellis island, lay the smoking and steaming hulk of the Saale, almost a total wreck.
The loss of life will probably prove greatest when the wreck of the Saale has been searched. Already a number of bodies have been taken off, and as soon as the fire in the hold has subsided there is every possibility that many bodies will be found below decks.
Various tugboat captains claim to have seen thirty of forty persons in one compartment just before the Saale went down.
Of the 266 persons reported missing to-night it is believed some will be found in sailors' boarding houses in this city, Jersey City and Hoboken.
The North German Lloyd officials deny that any passengers were lost, decleare[sic] that few, if any, visitors perished, and that the loss of life was almost entirely among employes of the company.
The fearful havoc to life and property caused by the fire which broke out at the docks of the North German Lloyd company in Hoboken yesterday cannot be approximated with any degree of certainty. Conservative people who have had experience along the docks are of the opinion that not more than 200 lives were lost. One of the officers of the steamship Bremen said to-day that there were fully 200 visitors on board that vessel when the fire touched there, the majority of them being women. A boat was lowered from the Bremen shortly after the alarm had been given, but the craft capsized as it touched the water and all hands were precipitated into the water, and none of them were saved by those remaining on the vessel. This in itself would indicate that the list of dead may be larger than it was at first thought.
The property loss can simply be approximated at this time. None of the officials around the docks could give anything like a precise estimate of their losses, and none was prepared to make a statement on this point. A conservative estimate made by a prominent fire underwriter places the entire damage at less than $10,000,000.
Glenwood Post Colorado 1900-07-07
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